23XI Racing is bringing back its third entry for a championship-winning guest driver. Toyota Gazoo Racing driver and WEC (World Endurance Championship) team principal Kamui Kobayashi will make his Cup Series debut.
According to an announcement made at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Kobayashi will take over the No. 67 Toyota Camry TRD for the road course race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Toyota Genuine Parts will serve as his primary partner as he becomes the first Japanese-born driver to control a Toyota at the top level of NASCAR.
Alpha Prime Racing’s Ryan Ellis was the first driver of Japanese descent to actually control a Toyota in the Cup Series. He did so back during the 2016 season when he made limited starts for BK Racing.
“We are thrilled to support Kamui in his first NASCAR Cup Series start as we field another competitive Toyota for the race in Indianapolis,” said Steve Lauletta, President of 23XI Racing. “This race will also serve as a great opportunity for our team to compete with and learn from a highly accomplished driver.
“Earlier in the season the No. 67 team did a great job preparing and executing at the Daytona 500 and we look forward to the same with Kamui. We are also excited to introduce Kamui’s many international fans to 23XI and our sport.”
Kobayashi Has Extensive Experience Across Multiple Disciplines
The 36-year-old driver has extensive experience in multiple racing disciplines. He began his journey with kart races in Japan, and he won several titles. He then joined Toyota’s Young Drivers Program, which helped him move to single-seat race cars.
Kobayashi’s partnership with Toyota Racing Development led to his debut in Formula 1. He made two starts in 2009 before going on to make 75 total. Kobayashi scored his lone podium finish in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix.
Along with his time in Formula 1, Kobayashi has also competed in the IMSA WeatherTec Sportscar Championship, Formula E, World Endurance Championship, and the Supra Formula Series. He scored three podium finishes in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and two wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway.
“It’s truly an honor to have Kamui want to participate in our NASCAR Cup Series program, and we’re thrilled that we could work with our partners at 23XI Racing to give him a competitive Camry TRD for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course event,” said David Wilson, President of TRD USA.
“Kamui shares the passion for motorsports that all of us at Toyota and TRD, U.S.A. live every day so it will be exciting to show him our NASCAR program with him behind the wheel of one of our TRD Camrys.”
Kobayashi Will Compete Against Some Familiar Competitors
The move to the Cup Series will be a new experience for Kobayashi. He will face off against new competitors at a new track while driving a different type of race car. Though there will be two men in the field with whom he has some familiarity.
2009 Formula 1 World Champion Jenson Button will make his third scheduled start of the 2023 season during the trip to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He will drive the No. 15 Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing while competing against Kobayashi once again.
Additionally, Andy Lally will drive another Ford Mustang for Rick Ware Racing as part of a last-minute deal that he and Camping World put together. Lally will take on all of the remaining road course races while splitting time between the No. 15 and the No. 51 Fords.
Lally and Kobayashi have both competed in many of the same IMSA events. Though they were both part of larger teams. Now, they will face off against each other at a track known for some chaos on restarts.